The 4 Step Process to Being Awesome at Anything
We are all good at something. Some of us are great at one thing. But few of us reach a level of complete mastery at anything.
Learning new things engages your prefrontal cortex, which operates via your working (i.e., short-term) memory. Your working memory is used for conscious decision-making and planning, directed at the attainment of your goals.
However, once you automate a skill, it becomes subconscious; and thus, you free up by 90 percent your working memory, which allows higher-level functioning. For example, you can drive for minutes at a time without even thinking about driving.
In the context of learning and performance, automaticity allows you to apply and deepen your learning in novel and enhanced ways. Developing automaticity is the process of going from doing to being–empowering you to become an expert and innovator – to become AWESOME!
Here’s how it works.
Whatever we plant in our subconscious mind and nourish with repetition and emotion will one day become a reality. –Earl Nightingale
The first step toward automaticity is repetitiously learning small sets or bits of information. If you’re learning a new language, it’s repeatedly hammering the same word types and roots. If you’re golfing, it’s practicing the same shot over and over. However, automaticity goes beyond the initial point of mastery, to what has been called over learning. To over learn, you continue practicing and honing long after you know something inside-out. In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in any field. In 1960 The Beatles left Liverpool to play in the nightclubs of Hamburg. By 1962 they were playing eight hours per night, seven nights per week. By 1964, the year they burst on the international scene, the Beatles had played over 1,200 concerts (and 10,000 hours) together. By way of comparison, most bands today don’t play 1,200 times in their entire career. Becoming grounded and proficient in the left-brained technical rules and skills frees up your right brain to creatively break or manipulate the rules. As the Dali Lama has said, “Learn the rules well so you know how to break them properly.”
2. Find your zone and stay there as long as you can.
“The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”―Richard Marcinko
The second step toward automaticity is making the practice or training progressively harder. If you’re at the gym, increase the weight and intensity. If you’re giving a speech, include elements outside your comfort zone. The goal is making the task increasingly difficult until it’s too hard. Then you drop the difficulty back down slightly to stay near the zone or threshold of your current ability.
3. Add a time constraint.
The third step toward automaticity is making the training more difficult while adding a time restraint. Do the same activity (e.g., writing an article), but give yourself a shortened timeline to do it in. Your focus should be process, not outcome on this. Quality over quantity.
Adding a timeline forces you to work faster while at the same time it requires you to think about the time, which loads up your working memory (think Cup Cake Wars on Food Network).
4. Load up your working memory with purposeful distractions.
The final step toward automaticity is working/training with an increasing memory load. In other words, doing the task with greater levels of distraction. Math teachers leverage this strategy by having students learning an obscure fact and having them recall it immediately after completing a math problem. Eventually, you can perform the activity in a flow-like state, where the external distractions and pressures no longer influence your unconscious ability to act. If you want to become world-class at what you do, you must get to the point where it becomes unconscious and automatic. Once you get to this level, you’ll be able to innovate and make your craft your own, because you’ll be operating at a higher frequency.
One fascinating point of Gladwell’s study: There are no “naturally gifted” performers. If natural talent played a role, we would expect some of the “naturals” to float to the top of the elite level with fewer practice hours than everyone else. But the data shows otherwise: The psychologists found a direct statistical relationship between hours of practice and achievement. No shortcuts. No naturals.
Remember practice makes perfect!
Welcome to being Awesome!
If you would like help accelerating your path to Awesome, please call Simon (440-385-6737) for a complimentary meeting.